Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What the Hell, Mel?

Hi everyone! I'm still in Turkey and working hard, getting ready to start what I hope will be my last day here. The business that I'm in is good and I think we've just about accomplished everything we came here to do - including having a good time of course. I may work for evil Corporate Weiners, but they still haven't made a binding that can keep me from slipping the yoke every so often and kicking up my mildly wicked heels :-)

So I finally get some cool internet time to see how everyone in the World is doing, and my writing instructor, Mel Odom, sends a note saying that his review site has just had its 10,000th visitor. Here's a link. Maximum congrats!

So, I click the link and this message pops up:

Mel's website had been banned in Turkey through a court order obtained a man named Adnan Oktar. Since I can't visit Mel's website, I went over to look at Mr. Oktar's. My Turkish is awful, but I understand that Mr. Oktar is a charismatic leader of an Islamic Creationist movement that is active in political and civil life here. I couldn't find anything that I could read well enough to understand why Mr. Oktar has worked to ban this website. Whatever it was that offended him must have been big enough to merit going to all the extra effort of involving the legal system.

So, what the Hell, Mel? What did you write on this website anyway? Or better yet, why did you wait to write it until I was in a placw where I couldn't read it? Are you punishing me :-) for missing class?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Off on another adventure

Thanks to everyone for stopping by! I'd love to stay and chat, but the Corporation is sending me overseas for a week. Nothing exciting really, just a meeting with some customers. If you kind enough to stop by again on the first of March, I'll welcome you back and have some pictures to show.

Gotta run ...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Maledictory Matriarch

The Great Plains! The words alone create a sense of space and a feeling of destiny--a challenge. But what exactly is this special part of Western America that contains so much of our history? How did it come to be? Why is it different?

United States Government Printing Office, Washington : 1980

The answer of all three questions is as obvious as the nose on my face. The Great Plains, that special part of Western America, creates a sense of space and feeling of destiny because it is the only place on this blue planet where there is an actual, working matriarchal society - of humans. Of course, there are many matriarchal animal societies. These social societies include ants, bees, elephants, and killer whales, but only one for humans.

The first Matriarch I remember was my great-grandmother, Sophie G. When I turned ten years old I could look her in the eye, which was an immeasurably disturbing experience because she would look right through a person ... just to read the newspaper behind them. She was born in Norway, came to the Short Grass Prairie in a covered wagon, loved to play Canasta, and kept the Devil off the doorstep with a "Hot Toddy" every now and then ... or so. That was a mix of skills that impressed the fire out of a ten year old too. When the north wind blew and the cards turned against her, she'd curse in Norwegian and make it sound almost like singing. She ran the family until the day she died. She ran "the business" too, and she ran it well. She lived in the very first three story house built in Stevens County, Kansas, and to this day it's the only such structure in her tiny town.

The next matriarch in my life was my father's mother, my Irish grandmother, Momo. She was the kind of grandmother that every kid wishes for ... and a little more. She let school in the seventh grade. She eventually met my grandfather, Popo, in an oil boomtown in southeastern Oklahoma in the 1930's. He was a hard worker and very strong. He had a team of mules and made a living hauling drill pipe out to the rigs working the oil patch. She had a gift for organization and accounting. Together they turned that mule team into a truck and trailer, and then into a fleet of trucks with caterpillars and motor graders, and then into a major oil field service business.

Although he always had time for his grandchildren, his love was "the business". My grandfather was a man of his times. He drank, smoked and told a story from time to time. He was built of the same genetic stuff that most every male in my family is, and died early because of it. Momo lived to be 92 and had her wits about her to the very end. She taught me everything (well, almost everything) I know about "the business", and I am forever grateful for that.

She was an eccentric character who never did anything half-way. She was a red-faced hatchet lady marching with the Prohibitionists in the 1920s. She served the Church and helped the Relief efforts during the worst times of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. She and my grandfather worked together during the 1940s during World War 2 to build the Municipal Airport at Pueblo, Colorado. She was an ardent anti-communist in the 1950s. She was a community activist and politically involved during the 1960s. In the 1970s, she founded a health food store and bought the first waterbed in Stevens County from a slick, hippie, full-color catalog. It set tongues to wagging, and some even speculated that what happened in it was the root cause of my grandfather's third heart attack. In the 1980s, she was a Reagan Revolutionary. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton was elected and she became convinced that the end of the world was at hand. After George W. Bush was elected, it was absolute proof that she'd only been wrong about "when".

The last matriarch I've known is my other grandmother; we called her "Mother" because "a 19 year old can't be a grandmother". The deal was that she'd had her 19th birthday about thirty times when I heard that line for the first time. She always had something to say. When I was 7, I asked her why she and my grandfather slept together while Momo and Popo slept in separate beds. She told that they did that because they were Republicans. I suppose this is why Democrat's have more fun. She was loud, proud of being a "yellow dog" Democrat, and never owned a house with very thick walls - a fact which made living with my grandfather and her occasionally ... ahem ... uncomfortable.

She was a unique woman. She could curse up a blue streak, out drink most men, and then give an old fashioned beat down to the others. She insisted upon the strictest sort of table manners - enforced by a long handled wooden spoon. She loved riding horses as much as she hated Dick Nixon. I suppose that made her the quintessential Short Grass Prairie Woman.

I heard a professor of psychology at Harvard named Steven Pinker talk about "the stuff of thought" on CSPAN (9/17/07). I'm certain that Pinker got everything he knows from an interview with my grandmother ... because the subject of the talk was about cursing. She is such an accomplished swearer that "The Maledictory Matriarch" should be carved on her headstone. For your enjoyment, I offer into evidence the different categories of swearing outlined by Pinker.

1. Dysphemistic swearing - the substitution of a disagreeable, offensive, or disparaging expression for an agreeable or inoffensive one. The difference between shit and feces or fuck and copulate. Same ideas really but different acceptibilities.

There are 34 euphemisms for feces in contemporary English usage. All of which with my grandmother was intimately familiar. I think she used a few of the noun forms of that to fill out labels for Christmas gifts one year.

2. Abusive swearing - used to intimidate or humiliate someone.

She was especially fond of this type of swearing. It was through this that I not only learned that our Lord Jesus Christ rode a bicycle, but why. She used this one very cleverly to describe the Protestant relatives engaged in undignified sexual activities, usually with small animals.

3. Idiomatic swearing - terms where it is completely unclear where the referent of the word came from in the current context.

These dripped of her like sweat on a July afternoon. Shit out of luck, get your shit together, pissed off, all kinds of terms used strictly for emotional impact.

4. Emphatic swearing - Used to add emphasis to a particular point.

One of her favorites was Fuck-O-Roni. I think that some people call that the San Francisco Treat, but I couldn't swear to it in court. Another one was "shit a brick". Pinker says that this category of swearing is used "to advertise their reactions to life's frustrations and setbacks", but I think it's much broader than that.

5. Cathartic swearing - strange phenomena where the topic of the conversation abruptly turns to sexuality or excreta. A response cry that is communicative and informs bystanders of her current state of emotions.

This is why everyone knew when SHE was in the confession box, but then again, it's about the only time you'll hear a priest talking this way.

Wikipedia says that "no matriarchal societies are known". I can't imagine anything further from the truth.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hairy Cherries, Fidel

The ducks morning swim was interrupted by some political news from Cuba. President 4 Life and Butthole in Chief, Fidel Castro, announced that he did not aspire to nor would accept the Presidency of Cuba (or any number of other positions ... most of which have been photographed by the CIA). This called for a celebratory lap around the old pond.

This is not a political blog, and I hate to make it so, but I make an exception for Fidel Castro. There are few people in the world who have done as much damage to a nation as Fidel Castro and his gang have. Even though this isn't the end of his corrupt ideology, it is the end for him. It's about time too. Hopefully it won't take too long for the world to be finally free of this monster. Until you're finally in Hell, Fidel, have a hairy cherry.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Dapper Dogs of the Great White North

Some friends of one of the Winged Monkeys of Software are touring the White North now. One of the points of interest in their adventure vacation was the 25th Running of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Here's a picture from the starting line.

The race course runs from WhiteHorse in the Yukon Territory of Canada all the up to Fairbanks, Alaska. The website says that the race follows the historic Gold Rush and mail delivery dogsledding routes from the turn of the 20th century. It takes two weeks to finish. The dog teams have fourteen dogs pulling. The terrain is frozen rivers, lakes and mountains. In addition to the just stupidly cold weather, the teams must also deal with unpredicatable wildlife along the way.

You can follow the teams along the race at this website:

Here are four additional pictures they sent back to us. You know I always had this image in my mind about dog sleds and the teams that pull them. It was right of Jack London's "Call of the Wild". The protagonist hero of that story is Buck, a 4-year-old, 140 lb St. Bernard/Scotch Shepherd mix, with the stature of a large wolf and the machismo of Norse god. The dogs pulling these sleds today aren't anything like the fictional Buck. These dogs are svelt, even dapper in their booties and James Bond jackets. Don't these dogs look like their racing to dinner at the Ritz? All they need is a tie to be seated.

Many thanks to Ben's friends for the images and the story.

Voodoo Bumpity-Boo

Had another voodoo bumpity-boo with our favorite red-headed Financial Voodoo Priestess this afternoon. She was showing off her newest shrunken head - fresh off the shoulders of a Front Office Yutz whom she'd caught using the "corporate" charge card to rent chairs for an office party.

Chairs? Why would anyone rent chairs?

So the strippers would have a place to sit.

Damn, she's good. I never even saw that one coming. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the company of women who are smarter than I am. It's just that whenever she shows me her necklace of shrunken heads during a meeting, I get this feeling that I should have worn a catcher's mask and a cup.

She told me that her husband has a website that I and the other Winged Monkeys of Software should see. A wet dread ran through my veins. She wrote the URL on the back of my notes for the meeting. It had the word GAMERZ in it. That could only be something evil, I thought, something so evil I wouldn't dare open a link to at work - especially not with this being contract renewal season for our resident network nazi - Earl, The Son of Santa. Let me quote ... "Ho, ho, ho, Mother F*cker. I gotcha now" ... For him Renewal IS the 'come to Jesus' event from the movie Logan's Run. The only difference is that in Earl's version of the movie, he gets renewed by throwing the bodies of enough network users onto the big red bug zapper. He detects the offense using his "proprietary computer forensic methods" and *poof* the victims connectivity privileges vanish in puffs of smoke.

After the meeting, I was thinking about how I should spin this for the ol' blog. I visited the restroom to try to wash off the dirty feeling I get from gatherings like this. As I was drying my hands I noticed some graffiti in the mirror. Someone had left me a sign ... Flush twice; it's a long way to the main cafeteria ...

Here's a link to the Voodoo Priestess' husband's website.

They've got a screenplay (and who doesn't?) they're trying to get noticed. There is some interesting and fun original material, even a music video love song to a video game. I'll have to take a look at it again in a few days when the monetary "shock and awe" from today's meeting with the Priestess has worn off.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A not-so-work-related email

On Friday I received an email at work that wore this disclaimer as a footer:

Caution: This message may contain competitive, sensitive or other non-public information not intended for disclosure outside official ... corporate ... channels. Do not disseminate this message without approval. If you received this message in error, please notify the sender by reply e-mail and delete all copies of this message.

I just hate this sort of legalese for two reasons. First, no one ever bothers to turn it off when they are going to send out messages that are clearly not work related. Second, there are three people with the same first and last name as me working for ... this ... corporation, so I routinely get email that is not intended for me. Sometimes it has an even more extravagant version of the legalese in it. Being the Working Class Hero ... ahem ... that I am, I try to follow the instructions in the email footer exactly. I have taken great pride in forwarding the email back to the sender ... and to our network security ... when the email contains pornographic images.

The email in question on Friday was not intended for me appearently, but I neither notified the sender by e-mail nor deleted all copies of the email. Nope, it was too much fun for that. Here's what it said:

Air Force Test

This will drive you nuts!! Have fun!

The object of the game is to move the red block around without getting hit by the blue blocks or touching the black walls.

If you can go longer than 18 seconds you are phenomenal. It's been said that the US Air Force uses this for fighter pilots. They are expected to go for at least 2 minutes.

Give it a try but be is addictive!!

PS. I survived .952 seconds.

Here's the accompanying link:

Friday, February 08, 2008

Start me up, Sniffy the Kitty

Humans don't own cats I'm told. It's the other way around. So, here's the story of the last cat that owned me, Sniffy the Kitty. Saying it so makes it even more appropriate because Sniffy was a very naughty kitty and much like his auntie, Spitty, who lived in the fiberglass under the trailer house where I was raised. The High Plains of Southeastern Colorado is a pretty barren place, some would even say God Forsaken, and it's probably true since it was literally East of the mountainous Eden one would visualize upon hearing the word - Colorado. Others would describe the blue grama-buffalo grass prairie as being just about beautiful. The truth is always in the middle, you know, so my cynically bitter with just a twinge of happiness autobiography should probably then be, "Little Doublewide on the Prairie".

My stepfather, Dick, was a farmer. Farming more than 160 acres of land earned an enterprising soul a deferment from the Draft because, as it turns out, both are equal forms of involuntary servitude and slavery. We raised wheat, Milo, cattle and pigs on the farm. We always had a dog. Our first one was a German Shepherd and a tramp, so all of the succeeding generations were part Coyote. There were other wild visitors who came to eat things we raised on the farm like rabbits, antelope, deer ... and kangaroo rats ... and the Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes that ate them.

My mother had always wanted a porch and wouldn't stop until she got one. So my stepfather built one for her. He used a bunch of cinder blocks for it, unintentionally creating the only spot warmed by the sun for miles around. It turns out that the cold blooded Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes really cherish those sorts of structures, so every summer day we had a buzzing welcoming committee at the front door. It was Hell on the traveling salesmen, but since our nearest neighbor was just a few miles away, it didn't dampen our socializing much at all. For some reason, my stepfather was deathly afraid of snakes with their flickering tongues and strange, scaly bodies. He was also afraid of chickens with their three-toed feet, savage gumption and feathers ... but I digress. When he saw two of the pigs in the pen fighting over the corpse of a snake that they had killed, he let all of the pigs loose to live in the yard. They were hard on the buffalo grass and liked to eat the garden hose. My stepfather fed the pigs in the pens but during the cold Colorado winters, they preferred to live right there under our happy little doublewide.

My stepfather wasn't much of a plumber, so when he cross connected the hot and cold water lines, it made for several unnaturally warm spots under the trailer and the pigs congregated there. It had some upsides too, don't get me wrong. Since the cold water line to the toilet now was filled with hot water, your backside was always nice and cozy during that morning constitutional no matter how stupidly cold it was outside. The downside was that since the wheels of the doublewide went flat and the trailer wasn't mounted on blocks, we lost a little elevation over the years. It would seem that the trailer was about three inches shorter than the average standing height of healthy Poland-China sow. So that morning walk to the toasty warm commode was done by stepping over the humps that the pigs backs had raised in the fiberboard floor of the Little Doublewide on the Prairie. Sometimes the humps were still in the process of being raised, and you'd hear a pig down there squealing "get offa my back you heartless monkey bastard."

Connectedness. Consequence. Cause and Effect.

Pigs "taste test" their environment. That environment included the cats, so that's why Spitty the Kitty lived in a hidey-hole bungalow in the fiberglass under the Little Doublewide on the Prairie. Spitty would scratch at just about anything that passed by. Over the years, the fiberglass got into her respiratory system and she developed a rattling wheeze meow. One Spring day, my stepfather called a plumber out to finally dis-cross connect the hot and cold water lines under the trailer. The plumber was fat, bold and brave. He told me that he wasn't afraid of rattlesnakes because he had developed a slide move technique in the Army and that talent got him where he needed to be under trailer houses like mine without disturbing any of the wildlife. The plumber laid on his back and inchwormed his way under the trailer toward THE spot where God himself had banished Satan into a little plumbing Hell. Unfortunately plumbing Hell was just north of Spitty the Kitty's hidey-hole bungalow. Spitty gave her rattling wheeze warning, and the plumber kept a coming. No, he didn't stop until she reached out and sank her claws into his fish white belly. Then he came out of there like a shot. He never came back to post a bill for his labor. In fact, no plumber ever came back, and we had toasty warm backsides until the day we moved.

When we moved, it was downhill to Kansas. About a thousand feet in elevation downhill to be exact, but it was much closer to my stepfather's mother's place. My step-grandmother Blanche was the first Earth Mother type I'd ever known and just about the most wonderful woman ever to grace the short grass prairie of the American West. She made filled cookies that were absolutely to-die-for good. She was also the only person I'd ever known to have a wax fruit display. She liked them so much that there were wax apples in nearly every room. She told us that they couldn't be eaten, and one of my brothers took that for a by God challenge, as he was apt to do, only to lose a wobbly tooth in proving her right.

Sniffy the Kitty was born a poor black kitty, a runt that no one wanted. My stepfather felt sorry for him and brought him home. Young Sniff was nursed into health and soon grew into a strong and prosperous cat. When it was time, Sniffy lost his testicles, as all pets should be either spayed or neutered to prevent overpopulation. My stepfather personalized the surgery for some reason and thought that such a loss would prove psychologically unbearable for Proud Sniff, so he asked the vet to replace the missing nards with some kind of substitute. This being Kansas and all, there just not were enough nards to go around. So he looked around the shop for something of equal value as a replacement. All he could find were two little pink plastic baby Jesus figures and a canine "prosthesis". My stepfather couldn't go for having the tiny pink and welcoming arms our Savior forever adorning the back of Young Sniff even though it would have been at a substantial discount. Instead, he chose the dog-sized faux-nards and instantly made Proud Sniff the vainest kitty in Stevens County, Kansas.

Sniffy had some bad habits. He loved to eat human food from the trash. He would dive right in, wallow and eat to his fill. Then he had to go outside and de-stink. One day, my stepmother (yes, I didn't finish with the same parents as I started with - through no fault of my own - it's a story I don't care to tell, so don't ask.) prepared a filet of beef, you know, the kind where it is important to tie it with string so the whole thing cooks more evenly. It was a delicious meal indeed, especially so for Sniffy the Kitty. He discovered the chunks of fat, drippings of gravy and all that meat-flavored string. A day or so later, Proud Sniff had a little white nub hanging out of his midnight black backside. One of my brothers, always attentive to details like that, asked my stepmother was it was. She said that it was just the string from the roast and not to worry because it would pass "naturally". My brother decided he couldn't wait for that and he just had to pick that nit offa Sniffy the Kitty. He grabbed the string and immediately had Sniffy undivided attention. He pulled on it. The string came out a little and Angry Sniff growled like a wildcat. My brother pulled a little harder on the string and Sniffy tensed up, digging his little kitty claws into the carpet. Now my brother had worked with string before. He was something of an expert really. He had a stubborn baby tooth that wouldn't come out, and he asked me to pull it for him. I am the oldest of six, so that sort of thing was apparently my responsibility. I wiggled on the tooth and my brother cried like a schoolgirl, so I told him that he had to pull it himself and that the easiest way was to tie one end of a string around the tooth and other end to a doorknob. Then you just slam the door and presto out comes the tooth. Wouldn't you know that he popped that old tooth out on the first try. That recollection gave my brother an idea. Maybe he just oughtta yank that string out of Sniffy the Kitty just like he was pulling out a tooth. My brother pulled the string taught and Nervous Sniff clenched that carpet as hard as he could. Then in one smooth motion my brother yanked that knotted string like he was pull starting the lawn mover. Sniffy the Kitty got power from all four churning legs, and the angry fist-knotted string popped right out Sniffy's butt. He was out of the house like a rocket. He climbed a tree and didn't come down for about three days.

Now I've read on the internet that there are some people who like that sort of thing, but from Sniffy the Kitty's reaction, I can't imagine why.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A divine Feelsky

Happy Lunar New Year everyone!

Well, where I work the old uber-boss is gone and the new one is coming. It's ironic, don't ya think, that we are waving goodbye to the Year of the Pig and are now welcoming the Year of the Rat.

I had a meeting late this afternoon with red-headed lady with low-heeled, sensible shoes from our Financial Department today. How did it go? It STARTED with her explaining that the V.P. part of the Financial V.P. sign on her door really stood for "Voodoo Priestess". Then she told me that because "our" business ...

Strange how it magically becomes "our" business when fecal matter hits the rotary oscillator in sizeable chunks, but when things are going well it's somehow a seamlessly-integrated, vertically-inspired structure delivering the very finest goods and services to the customer with an absolutely maximal profit stream and is the work product of ONE AND ONLY ONE manager, but I digress ...

Yes, because "our" business was going suffer a $250 Million loss this year, "I" was going to feel the Hand of God upon me.

You know, of all the things I've felt at work, THIS has got to be the worst. I thought it was bad enough occasionally being screwed by the "Man Who Holds Us Down". Now, apparently I will suffer the indignity of a divine Feelsky too.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Happy Fat Tuesday ya'all!

Happy Fat Tuesday ya'all! Hope yours was as happy as mine. Starting tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, the Lent season is upon us. Now everyone does something a little different for this period of time that will end on Easter. Many people use this time to pause and reflect on their faith. You've probably heard of people trying to give up one thing or another because of Lent. Phooey! Before I figured out what it was *really* all about, I'd been guilty of that sort of Lenten-limp too. One year, I really thought that my incredibly honed sarcastic bitterness would be a noble sacrifice. The next year I swore off being cynical. The very next year, still having crawled no closer to enlightenment, I decided to go for the spiritual double-dip and give up both bitterness and cynicism - at the same time! In the six excruciatingly LONG weeks of silence that followed ... I had time to rethink my whole outlook on the faith. I had time to do service projects for people who really needed help. I even had time to put others first, and it changed my life.

So at our last writers' group meeting, a friend asked what I was doing for Lent this year. I had a hard time answering because I hadn't worked out the details for myself yet. It takes a little lead in to explain it, and this is the first time that I've ever told anyone ahead of time, about what Lent means to me. Because you asked Katie, here it is.

About eight years ago now, one of my brothers died. I'm the oldest of six and Jeff was the third. We were close and did a lot of things together growing up. He was a wild one with fire engine red hair. He was almost always in some sort of trouble. He liked sports and excelled at football and track. He eventually got a scholarship and played football at University of Kansas (when they were really, really bad). He finally found a very good woman in the Houston area and married her. They had four children. She was still pregnant with the fourth when he died.

During High School, we had a band. I think everyone did back then. It was Jeff and I, a neighbor named Dave, and a drummer named Weeds (for reasons I can't possibly fathom). Our band played mostly for petty cash, beer, girls and fun. The biggest crowd we ever played to was about sixty people and we brought the house down with a mix of covers that featured some old Deep Purple tunes. I still remember the songs we played that evening. They were mostly three chord wonders, but a few were more complicated. It was a lot of fun.

Later, when Jeff moved to Houston, I'd travel from central Oklahoma down to Houston as often as I could. He had a job that paid pretty good money and gave him the run of a very big, but mostly empty warehouse where they fixed vending machines by day and stored candy and capsules of toys for the route men. Jeff saved up and bought a beautiful Ibanez guitar and a couple of new pedals. After closing time, we'd bring out of guitars and amps and play whatever we wanted just as loud as we wanted. I remember one night after a Ronnie James Dio concert we sat in that garage for hours until we had figured out "Holy Diver" and "Rainbow in the Dark". After Jeff got a route of his own, we'd still get together and play even though that meant going all the way to Atlanta, Georgia, to do it. That was how I remembered playing guitar. It was a lot of fun. When Jeff died, I put the old Fender Stratocaster case into the closet and haven't been able to pick it up since.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine named Walt, said that he'd heard from some buddies at work that I played guitar. He said that he had bought a DVD and was learning how to play. He wondered if I would come over and play sometime. I told him no right away. The more I thought about it, the more I thought about Jeff. I came to realize how much Jeff's death effected me. It's effected my faith in a way that I've not been able to really overcome. When Walt asked again, I thought that maybe instead of giving up something for Lent, maybe I should be doing something for Lent. Maybe this will help work though things and reconnect me to the faith. That's what I'm hoping anyway. So I said yes.

When I reached for the Strat, I just couldn't do it. So in order to make this happen, I dug my old acoustic out of the closet. It's a 1961 Silvertone.

You're probably thinking that there's nothing special about these old guitars that they sold through Sears, but there really is. They have a soul of their own. Guys like Muddy Waters, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup and even Jimi Hendrix once played an old Silvertone guitar. They were inexpensive, but well built. They have a twangy, bluesy sound. The neck is super comfortable in the hand and they just ring when you run your hand across the strings. Silvertone sold them from 1915 until 1972. I know there are just tons of better guitars out there, but I've always liked this one and its feaux-Western looking case with the printed cowboys and Indians vignettes all over. I know mine is a '61 because the guy I bought it from (back when Jimmy Carter was President) had left in the case an instruction booklet that came with the guitar when his parents bought it for him. He'd penciled in the date March 25, 1961, on the cover. The guitar always had a problem with the low E tuning peg. It was bent when I bought it. So I ordered a set of replacement tuning pegs on eBay and got them installed. Of course the strings were dead after all these years, so I went to the store to buy a new set today. I used to love my old Ernie Ball strings, but the guy at the store said that the DRs were very popular now. I just had to get a pack of red and white OU picks also. I'll string it up tomorrow after our writers group meeting and see how it sounds. More on that later.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Snowbirds of Super Tuesday

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday and our weather forecast looks to be a bad one. That usually means low turn outs at the polls unfortunately. I want to encourage everyone to get out there and vote your conscience. That's only vote a person can cast without remorse. Many places will have other issues on the ballot like school bond elections and sales tax proposals. Please consider these issues carefully. Because so many people won't bother to vote at all, the vote you cast is very important indeed.

The last time the weather forecast was like this, we had a nice skiff of snow to show for it. The birds at the pond didn't mind it a bit. Here are some pictures to the birds enjoying the snow.

Now that they've seen me, or should I say the sack of cracked corn I'm carrying, I'm becoming popular.

Can you tell that we've got a several newcomers there. I'm trying to find out what they are and I hope to have more pictures soon. I've been trying to almost five years now to get a good picture of the blue heron that picks the occasional sunfish out of the pond.

Another couple domestic (farm) geese have decided to join our happy community. I don't mind if you bring your birds by and let them join the family. Please consider the adoption FINAL, once you close your car door and drive away. We will feed them and care for them from that point forward. We do not appreciate it when you bring our birds home with you for ... dinner on Easter Sunday.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


1. the surgical removal of all or part of a ... um ... salami.
2. a strategy employed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War to take over Europe “slice-by-slice” with no one slice so grave as to compel the West to respond militarily.
3. A particularly disturbing method of moving a horror story forward, a catalyst.

Have you ever had a story leave you speechless? I really wanted to mean that in the good way, but something happened that ... whittled down ... my estimation.

The short story "Noodlers Nab Naked Nymphs" by Steven E. Wedel is read by the author and presented in video format. It's a meaty twenty-two minutes and thirty-five seconds long. It's a free stream from the folks and joins a number of other stories presented by their authors on that website. Be warned, this is about horror and they take their genre seriously.

It's the story of some backwoods boys who visit the Kiamichi Wilderness in Oklahoma, or "kiamish" as the locals call it. They want to go fishing in the Glover River, which is actually the last free-flowing (undammed) river in Oklahoma. These red-dirt rednecks are the kind of folks that "upstanding" Oklahomans will go a long way to not have to acknowledge as kin. Because it is a Wedel story, the dialogue is crisp, the setting is beautifully painted, and the characters exceeding realistic. From the word "GO", the language they use is decidedly NOT family friendly.

Once they arrive at the river, they are attacked by a crazed man who mutilates one of the boys and uses his severed penis to summon a river nymph. Now, nymphs in general are like fairies, except they are female and scary. I leave what happens next your imagination, but count on bloody spectacle, shock and awe.

Technically, the story was very well done. All of the elements that should have made it great were there. It just got weighted down by the harsh language and the "salami-otomy" that happened in the first few minutes of the story. It's a good, but long listen. Check it out, but be prepared for the R-rated content.

"Seven Days in Benevolence" by Steven E. Wedel is everything that you would expect from a master storyteller with a few of style points deducted for disturbing content.

Just through a painful divorce, Dena and her two daughters are ready for a new life in Benevolence, Oklahoma. Even though Dena has a found job, moving to a new town poses challenges. The family needs a place to live. The oldest daughter, Rebecca, will attend public school, and the youngest, Brianna, needs day care. Her ex-husband still wants Dena and the children back, but can't have them for reasons that are brilliantly developed through context, action and dialogue.

When Dena finds an old house that's just the right size for the family and has the perfect yard and a basement, she doesn't realize how much more than a home she is getting. Like every really good ghost story, the setting is a character unto itself, and this one is very well drawn. The seven days the family spends in that setting are told in this novella length story. There was enough meat on the stiff old bones of the house on 12th Street to have made a novel that really measured up.

Have you ever been swept along by a story so much that your "willing suspension of disbelief" was so utterly suspended that, like a rodeo cowboy, you didn't realize that things were going wrong until you were bucked off and being stomped on by a very angry nineteen hundred pound bull? That is this story. There are two things about the story that bothered me enough to deduct a few style points. It's disturbing to read a story that emphasizes the forcible amputation of a human penis as a method of salvation. It's quite beyond that to have that penis intended to be used as a weapon against an infant with "her small body stripped of all clothing, her arms and legs splayed so that she looked like a pale, stranded starfish" (p.97). This was an unfortunate choice and compromised the ending of what had been a very good story up to then.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Duck who walked on water

There once was a duck who walked on water. Yes, I know this is a limerick struggling to be born. It's also a fact, or more precisely, exactly the same as a one - only different - and that makes it perfectly true in every sense of things. That shouldn't make sense, but I'm very sorry to report that where I work it does.

Technically speaking, it is completely true that while ducks can float on water, so far none have really mastered walking on it. However, if one were to give the duck years of spiritual guidance, an understanding and mastery of the basic tenets of the universe, and a warming spark of enlightened human values like compassion, love and kindness, then take the duck to a place like Galilee where there is at least an historical precedent of walking on water, you just may actually get a duck to pull off a miracle.

On the other hand, modern corporate greed and ineffectually enforced contracting rules have joined forces to create another possibility. You take a large sheet of ice and submerge it in the water. Sprinkle cracked corn round the middle of the ice sheet. Then gently place the duck on the center of the ice. As the duck walks around the block of ice pecking the corn, take a witness and put them in a viewing booth just far enough away from the water so that they can't see the ice, but are still close enough to see the duck walking ... on what appears to be the surface of the water. Then quick as can be done, get a check collecting drone in procurement to pass around the approval documents and a pen. Take check to bank before anyone is the wiser.

For the sake of argument, let's suppose that your team is very busy with a real project and a deadline that is right around the corner. Out of the blue, something like this happens...

Hey ah, we've got a little problem.

(inner monologue)
"We" means you and the mouse in your pocket, no?
(external vocalization)

The Contracting Officer just called and he needs one of the engineering leads to go over to a Brand X Contractor's corporate office for a meeting. You'd better hurry and get over there ... because the test started about ten minutes ago.

So on the way over to the Brand X Contractor's corporate office, you read as many of the technical documents as you possibly can. The Brand X Contractor has proposed and been granted approval (and tons of bucks) for a requirement that so closely resembles getting a duck to walk on water that you want to scream.

The meeting not only goes badly, but another person from Corporate, appropriately named the Chief of All Things, publicly denounces the idea that this is a duck walking on water. It is, as everyone can plainly see, much more closely related to a poke - a small sack or bag and is the origin of the word pocket. No, it is obviously has no feathers at all either, but is more porcine because of the extreme cost of the program. Q.E.D. - a pig in a poke. Everyone congratulates the Chief of All Things for his snappy banter, quick thinking and cat-like reflexes.

During a break in the meeting, one of the Brand X Contractors approaches you stealthily. He reminisces about a temporary duty assignment he had with a certain female employee of the corporation. He wonders if she still works there. Naturally she does - she works for you in fact. He whips out a business card, scratches his business phone off the front and writes in his personal cell number. He says that she promised to sell him an Ostrich egg and asks if you knew how her side business was going.

You finally return to the office. You have to talk to your boss. You find him talking to a Vietnamese lady. Her name is Thuy - pronounced "twee". Your boss says that even though the employee's mother intensely disapproves of it, he thinks it would be great if she married Mr. Byrd from Central Accounting because then her name would be Thuy T. Byrd. Neither of them laugh when he says it.

You interrupt the conversation to say that you think the corporation needs to buy a new piece of safety equipment for the office. Your boss looks deeply disturbed. You are unaware of a pending Workman's Comp claim in the office by one of the employees who sat down without looking backward first, thereby missed planting his butt into his chair, where upon gravity kicked in sending the vegetable-minded employee crashing to the floor and fracturing his tailbone and two ribs in the process.

What kind of safety equipment?

A shower to help get rid of that dirty feeling you get from dealing with our contractors.

You follow the boss into his office where he writes (yet another dammit!) piece of paper for your personnel jacket.